Dark Blue (2002) starring Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Michael Michele, Brendan Gleeson, Ving Rhames directed by Ron Shelton Movie Review

Dark Blue (2002)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Kurt Russell in Dark Blue (2002)

Blue Blooded

Watching "Dark Blue" I can't but help think that it didn't end up the movie it was intended to be especially when you consider the setting is L.A. and the climax comes during the riots a year after the beating of Rodney King. It just feels like the original intention was for this to be a movie which highlighted that corruption within the police force was a major reason for various issues during the early 90s and some of the issues within the force were hereditary, passed on from one generation of law enforcers to another. The trouble is that whilst this does come across "Dark Blue" ends up becoming a solid but typical thriller about police corruption and whilst the backdrop of L.A. just before and during the riots adds atmosphere that is all it seems to do.

As the tension rises in L.A. as both the police and the civilians wait the outcome of the court case against the police men who beat Rodney King, SIS find themselves with a quadruple homicide to investigate. Third generation cop, Eldon Perry (Kurt Russell - 3000 Miles To Graceland) who is known for his tough tactics along with rookie Bobby Keough (Scott Speedman) investigate the murders with Perry trying to teach Keough the tough tactics he employs. But Assistant Chief Holland (Ving Rhames - Undisputed) is against the way that SIS operates especially the old boy's network which allows them to get away with breaking the law and sets about bringing them down.

Michael Michele and Scott Speedman in Dark Blue (2002)

So as I mentioned "Dark Blue" doesn't feel like it is the movie which was intended and it is said that writer James Ellroy disowned the movie as his script was completely rewritten. Now what "Dark Blue" feels like it is trying to be is a look at how L.A. got in to the state it was and in particular looking at the corruption within the police force where officers who killed bad guys got away with it. It also feels like it wants to say that part of this predicament is generational as attitudes towards law enforcement is passed on from one generation to another especially when you have policemen who have followed in their father's footsteps. And whilst this side does come across it never really feels like it is focussed upon enough so that it is central to the movie.

As such "Dark Blue" instead ends up coming across like any other cop drama where we have police corruption. We have the almost typical aspect of the rookie cop who whilst being taught the wrong way also has his own moral compass and can't live with the lies whilst we also have Chief Holland who aware of the old boys network is determined to bring it down. There is more to this police corruption than this but it is all very typical and nothing you won't have seen before.

What isn't typical is the climax which is some of the tensest scenes I have had the pleasure to watch thanks to the drama climaxing during the 1992 riots. These final scenes as we have Eldon driving through the out of control streets and having angry residents setting upon him in his car are spectacular and make up for much of the ordinary stuff which goes on before.

The irony of all this is that whilst "Dark Blue" ends up feeling like any other corrupt cop movie it features some terrific performances. Brendan Gleeson is magnificent as Jack Van Meter, the puppet master who is behind so much of the corruption and cover ups whilst Scott Speedman as Keough does a decent job of emoting the moral conflict over what he is ordered to do. But the star of all this is Kurt Russell and it is his final scenes in front of a hall full of cops and dignitaries which saves the movie and gets across the generational problems within the police force.

What this all boils down to is that "Dark Blue" is a solid corrupt cop movie with some stand out moments and performances. But unfortunately whilst solid it is not the movie I am sure that was intended as routine drama fills in for an insightful look at the problems with the police department.